GOP targets NLRB 'ambush election' rule

Republicans lawmakers offered legislation Thursday to stop the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from speeding up union elections. 

One bill, backed by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), would require the NLRB to let 35 days pass after employees file a petition before they are allowed to vote on forming a union.

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Kline says the NLRB's new union election rule would “rush” the process by reducing this time to as little as 10 days. Republicans are calling it a rule for “ambush” elections because of the short time frame.

Their bill would also give employers 14 days to prepare their case before they go before an NLRB election official, as opposed to the seven days the agency is proposing. And employers would be allowed to raise additional concerns throughout the pre-election process, which the NLRB's rule would not do.

The legislation would also address issues of voter eligibility by requiring the NLRB to identify who can vote before the election, rather than going back and doing it retrospectively.

Separately, the lawmakers are offering another bill that would allow workers to decide whether to disclose their personal and contact information to unions, which has been a point of controversy for Republicans. 

Republicans say the NLRB is looking out for unions at the expense of management — and even employees. Their main argument is that employees should have a chance to hear from both sides before they decide whether to organize.

But the NLRB and Democrats say companies exploit the current system with unnecessary delays that give management more time to intimidate their employees and convince them not to join.

They have said the NLRB rule is designed to help employees who want to form or disband a union.

“These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether non-union employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union,” NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said when he announced the rule in February. 

The NLRB resurrected the union election rule in February, after a federal judge overturned the original version.

But Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who is also backing the GOP legislation, said the NLRB is looking to “fix a problem that doesn't exist.”

Republicans have long criticized the NLRB for what they see as union favoritism under the Obama administration.

“The National Labor Relations Board ought to be an umpire,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee. “But under this administration (the NLRB) has lunged so far to the side of union advocacy that they’re willing to sacrifice every worker’s right to privacy and every employer’s right to free speech. Congress must act, first to stop this rule, second to reform this board.”

Earlier this month, Kline and Roe privately met with Pearce to ask him to withdraw — or at the very least delay — the union election rule.